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Posted: 12/19/2005 9:46:57 AM EDT
HOUSTON – Here's a revolutionary idea for preserving the historic but increasingly fragile Battleship Texas: Take it out of the water and leave it up on blocks.

That way, visitors have a chance to view it from below, looking up through a glass ceiling simulating the waterline.

It wouldn't be a "natural" setting, but there'd be a lot less rust, no more barnacles – and, from a cost standpoint, no more towing the ship to dry dock every 10 or 15 years for repairs, eliminating the risk of the ship sinking in transit.

"For the price of one dry-docking ... you can give it a dry berth," says Barry Ward, curator of the ship for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The Texas has been a floating museum at San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site since retirement in 1948. But water and weather eat it up. The 91-year-old ship was dry-docked for repairs in 1988 at a cost of $15 million. Now, 17 years later, it needs work again.

A permanent solution is a better idea, says Severine Halls, deputy director of infrastructure for the parks department. But the details depend on funding and engineering studies, she said.

Officials are optimistic about finding the money from public and private sources, but until recently there had been debate about what to do, said Steve Whiston, director of infrastructure.

Some favored towing the Texas to dry-dock one more time before addressing a permanent solution. Others argued for a wet berth capable of being pumped dry. But there's now consensus favoring a dry-berth plan, which would raise the Texas out of the water and onto blocks permanently. It's safe, Mr. Ward says, and much cheaper – $16 million to $20 million versus $36 million or more to build a pumpable slip.

There have been problems with ships taken out of the water, but they occurred because officials in charge cut back too far on maintenance, says independent marine engineer and naval architect Will Boytim of Houston.

It's not clear when work could begin.

Funding for the effort originally was straightforward. Voters in 2001 approved $100 million in capital bonds for work on parks, including the Texas. But the Legislature has declined to authorize issuance.

Instead, the Legislature encouraged Parks & Wildlife to apply for a $16 million federal grant through the Texas Department of Transportation, with the required 20 percent local match coming from private sources or the U.S. Defense Department.

"We've got to save the old battle wagon," said U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who's trying to help. "Times are hard and people have other interests, but it's a historical monument to the people who served, and we need to keep it."

No jokes about being a redneck here...........you may be a redneck if you have a battleship sitting on blocks on your dock...........
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